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Genghis Khan And The Start Of The Mongolian Empire

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Born around 1162 near the border of Mongolia, Ghengis Khan was given his name after becoming the first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. Originally named Temüjin, Genghis had a rough childhood. His mother had been kidnapped by his father and forced into marriage. At the same time, nomadic tribes on the central Asian steppe were in a persistent war that involved killing and stealing from one another. This made life for young Temüjin harsh and unpredictable. Before the age of ten, his father, Yesugei, was poisoned, an outcome of fighting among the clans. This resulted in Temüjin’s own clan deserting him, his mother, and his six siblings so they wouldn’t have to feed them. Shortly after, Temüjin killed his older half-brother and became the head of his poverty-stricken household. In 1178 Temüjin married Börte, and together they had four sons and an unknown number of daughters. Years later, his wife Börte was kidnapped. He launched a dangerous rescue mission to get her back while along the way creating alliances and building a reputation as a fearless warrior, enticing a growing number of followers. Most of what we know of Temujin’s early life comes from “The Secret History of the Mongols,”. This book is the oldest known work of The Mongols and was written shortly after his death.

Many believe that his unification of the Mongols, rather than the conquests he led taking over Asia, was the more impressive feat. Unifying the Mongols was no easy task. This meant uniting a whole series of disparate tribes, who have been fighting each other for years. Because of his fearless leadership, Genghis succeeded and brought all the tribes together into one confederation. This was a grand achievement that marked the start of the Mongolian Empire. As a result of the newly created confederation, in 1206, a meeting of the Khuriltai(a group of Mongol nobility) gave their new leader the title of “Genghis Khan”, meaning Khan of All Between the Oceans. This prestigious title was an acknowledgment by the Mongol nobles of Genghis Leadership and their loyalty. From that point on Temüjin would be the Khan of all who lived in Mongolia and leader of the ruthless Mongol army.

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Going against custom, Genghis put trusted allies rather than blood relatives in powerful positions. This allowed Genghis to have more control. During the 1206 political rise of Genghis, the Mongolian Empire he created shared its eastern and southern border with the Jin dynasty and its western border with the Xi Xia dynasty. Genghis went to work organizing and preparing an attack on the Western Xia dynasty of the Tanguts, which was closest to the Mongolian lands. He correctly presumed that the more powerful, inexperienced ruler of the Jin dynasty would not help supply the Xi Xia. When the Tanguts asked for help, the Jin dynasty refused. Despite early complications, Genghis managed to capture the well-defended cities and forced Xi Xia to surrender to him.

In 1211, after the surrender of Western Xia, Genghis wasn’t satisfied. He prepared his people, city, and the cavalry for an assault on the Jin Dynasty. Wanyan Juijin, the head general in charge of the Jin Army, made a costly mistake by not attacking when he should’ve. Instead, he sent a messenger, who later defected and told the Mongols that the Jin army set up camp just around the corner. This allowed the Mongols to surprise the Jin army, resulting in a massacre. Hundreds of thousands of Jin troops died at this engagement fought at Yearling. A few years later, Genghis captured the Jin capital of Zhongdu. Forced to move his capital south to Kaifeng, Emperor Xuanzong abandons the northern half of his empire to the Mongols.

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